The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for. — Louis L'Amour
Lately, there have been a lot of mornings when I sit down at my makeshift plywood desk in our spare bedroom and feel like the 7-year-old whining in the backseat of his parents' minivan: "How much longer? Are we there yet?" I want to get back to my visiting, fellowshipping, and banqueting life.
But, the journey continues. Louis L'Amour's quote reframes my perspective: What is God doing in me, in our church, and our community along the trail? What unique missional opportunities do we see as we progress? What if we desire the end of this trail so profoundly that we miss our reason for traveling?
The congregations that Resonate Global Mission ministry leaders work with in Canada and the United States are already making plans for regathering once we arrive at the close of this journey. We all are eager for the end of this trail.
Meanwhile, let us not miss what God might have us traveling for along the way. As you make plans to phase-in the regathering of the church, consider some practices that help you live into God's missional call:
Phase: Households Joining in Worship
Have you, or your congregants, found that worship at home allows for vulnerable, real spiritual conversations and fellowship in a way that is limited in the formal worship setting? This form of worship, with its focus on deepening relationships, is what many "nones" (people who identify as having no religious affiliation) are looking for today. As households join, think beyond matching groups from your congregation together, and encourage people to invite the neighbors they have been getting to know in the past few weeks. If the weather allows, worshipping on a back porch provides a relaxed and welcoming space. Sharing breakfast or coffee treats will enhance this fellowship.
This size of a group is also conducive to meaningful prayer. The Jewish concept of a minyan states that ten people are enough to "comprise a group that is potent enough to stay the hand of judgment over a place that was so full of evil it would gain the attention of God over every other city in the world." (Microchurch: A Smaller Way Brian Sanders 22). How will your households join together to pray against the sickness, injustice, and brokenness in our world today?
Phase: Groups of 50 in Worship
Gatherings of this size may begin to feel like a traditional church, but still lack many of the auxiliary programs such as nurseries and potlucks. Instead of focusing on what the church cannot do, what can the church do to encourage these groups of 50 to live into the core components of church intentionally? The microchurch movement, growing mainly in post-Christian contexts, develops small communities of faith focused on worship, community, and mission. How will these components be part of your small worshipping communities?
Phase: An Unknown Future
What are we learning along the trail that should continue to shape our future? What missional opportunities did we encounter as we moved the church outside of the building? We are developing in ways that will help us be a gospel witness in a post-Christian context, where people are not likely to join us inside of our church buildings, especially given current health concerns. Let us take time to pray and discern that we will not miss all we are traveling for.
Amy Schenkel is Resonate Global Mission's Regional Mission Leader for the Great Lakes Region. Resonate is an extension of your congregation. If you and your church want to discern how you can be more missional in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic and its after effects, contact Resonate today.